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What is upselling, and how does it work in ecommerce?

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

There are two main approaches an ecommerce business can take to increase revenue… and we bet you can guess what they are. The first is reaching more customers. While this strategy is great in theory, it’s expensive and arduous in practice. The second approach is getting your existing customers to spend more money. With the right strategies and tools, boosting customer spend can be immensely effective, affordable, and simple. Step one? Start upselling products.

Upselling definition

Upselling is often confused with its not so distant cousin: cross-selling. However, there is a distinct difference between the two.

Upselling is all about convincing a shopper to spend slightly more by suggesting a similar, but more expensive, alternative to the product they’re thinking about buying. For example, if a customer is looking at a $100 coat, you could recommend coats in similar styles, but in a slightly higher price bracket to get them to spend more with you. 

Likewise, if a shopper is in the market for a new television or laptop, you can gently suggest items from the same brand, but with better specs to persuade them to upgrade their purchase – much like a sales associate would in store. 

Cross-selling, by comparison, is the art of getting shoppers to buy additional items to the product being viewed. This usually takes the form of complementary accessories – the boots to go with the coat, or the speakers that are compatible with the television mentioned above. More on cross-selling here!

Upselling strategies for ecommerce stores

As covered above, the basic principle behind this sales strategy is suggesting more costly versions of the items that a shopper is already looking for. What does upselling mean in practice? Below you can see how a customer looking for sports bras from Fabletics will also be shown other sports bras at higher price points.

upselling strategies

Follow these four upselling strategies to ensure you are providing relevant and helpful suggestions to your shoppers.

1. Be cost conscious

There’s more finesse to upselling than just pushing your most expensive products on customers. Retailers need to be conscientious with their upselling strategies to avoid recommending items that are out of the shopper’s budget. At best, this approach can seem tone deaf to the customer’s needs. At worst, it can drive them to cheaper competitors.

For example, if a customer searches “washing machines under $500” on your website, you’d be remiss to advertise $3,000 washer-dryer combos as recommended products. Take advantage of rules to hide irrelevant – and out of budget – items to gently nudge shoppers towards the upsell.

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2. Upsell on product pages

Just like location is critical in the world of real estate, placement is critical in the world of online shopping. Where you place your upselling recommendations can make a world of difference. 

Show recommended products on product pages, so that when someone clicks to learn more about a product they like, they’ll also see related – but pricier – items too. Make sure to place the recommended products below the featured product so they’re easy to find without being obtrusive.

upsell meaning

See how customers looking at WineEnthusiast.com’s Vintage Factory Bar Cart are shown more expensive options further down the product page.

3. Leverage your cart and checkout page

You can increase your chances of upselling success by also showing recommended products on your cart or checkout page. Below you can see how WineEnthusiast.com recommends alternative wine glass sets at varying prices when shoppers add a set to their cart.

upselling techniques

Again, make these suggestions easy to spot, but don’t let them get in the way of a conversion. The placement of recommendations on a checkout page is important to test to ensure it doesn’t inadvertently distract shoppers from making a purchase. 

4. Choose your upselling words carefully

Using the right language in your upsells can be the difference between seeming pushy, and highlighting the value of the products you’re suggesting. 

You can see in the photo above that a “Continue Shopping” call to action (CTA) is featured on the cart page to subtly convince customers that there’s still more to shop for.

Experiment with phrases like “you may also like,” “we think you should check out,” “you may have missed,” or “customers also bought” throughout your online store. 

What does upselling mean for your ecommerce business?

When executed well, upselling is the perfect opportunity to boost your average order value, while also ensuring customers find the best possible product for their budget. While typically associated with the in-store shopping experience, there’s no reason you can’t take a similar approach on your ecommerce store.  

Already a Searchspring customer? Email our team of Customer Success experts at customersuccess@searchspring.com to learn how you can implement these tactics on your store. Interested in adding Personalized Recommendations to your site? Request a demo today!